Spotlight On … Andrew’s Hugs

If you knew Andrew Charles Norton, consider yourself one of the lucky ones. You already know what kind of young man he was. For those of you who did not meet Andrew before he passed away, he was a member of the Adult Recreation program, kind-hearted, always had a smile on his face and he gave the best hugs.

That’s why his family, Brian and Cheri Norton, parents; Michael Norton, brother; and Julie Raguski, sister, founded Andrew’s Hugs. “We’ve done tremendous work in eight months,” Cheri said. “I’m hoping this will go on forever and get bigger and bigger to support more special needs organizations.”

As of today, their organization has already donated back $30,000 to organizations that helped provide services to their son/brother. In June, BCI, where Andrew was employed, received $10,000. And, on July 28, at CarShield Field (home of the River City Rascals), Andrew’s Hugs presented Community Living with $20,000. “This is one of his favorite places (CarShield Field),” Julie said. “It just makes sense that we would present the check here.”

Andrew’s Hugs was created to keep Andrew’s memory alive, and to raise money to ensure that everyone has a chance to enjoy life to the fullest. “Having Andrew was very special,” Cheri said. “At first you may think a special needs child is going to hold you down but Andrew made us who we are. He was such an awesome person. He loved everyone. He always looked at the bright side. He never felt sorry for himself. He never quit on anything.”

Andrew was a huge sports fan. He was at every Cardinals, Blues and Rascals event. “Tonight we carried on Andrew’s memory with our donation,” Julie said. “He did so much good when he was here, so it just makes sense that we keep doing good in his memory.”

All the good is not going unnoticed. “It (Andrew’s Hugs) not only keeps Andrew’s memory alive, but it shows what he stood for and what his family stands for,” Christine Rutherford, Director of Development, said.

As the family said earlier, Andrew was fortunate to have the means to pay for the events he participated in with the Adult Recreation program, but they know not everyone is as fortunate. “Everyone needs to have a good time,” Julie said. Sharon Zull, Recreation Coordinator, said the donation to Community Living will help Adult Recreation members that can’t afford to go to events. “Andrew loved to go out,” Cheri said. “Community Living was his social outlet.”

The night was emotional for the Norton family. “I asked my husband if he thought Andrew’s Hugs has helped or not,” Cheri said. “He said he thinks it has helped, because our family is carrying on Andrew and no one is ever going to forget Andrew. That is my goal –no one is ever going to forget Andrew Charles Norton.”